The Ulster Grassland Society held its Spring Meeting on the farm of Ian Buchanan & Sons, Straw Road, Dungiven on Thursday 4th May when around 100 members and friends joined Society President David Linton on a tour led by Ian Buchanan.
The family moved their dairy enterprise to a ‘green field’ site in 2012 due to limitations on expansion at the ‘home farm’. The farm is situated at 260 feet above sea level and generally receives around 47 inches of rain.
Today the dairy unit comprises 280 cross-bred Holstein x Viking Red cows run on 160 acres with average yields of 7,700 litres/cow. Host farmer Ian explained that cows calve from mid – October through until first week in March with heifers targeted to calve down at two years of age.
The top 50% of cows are mated to sexed semen with Aberdeen Angus bulls also used in the past and a number of Wagyu calves born last year. All calves are reared on the home farm with the male animals eventually sold as stores.
Turnout of the dairy herd is as early as possible in the Spring, depending on ground conditions, with cows normally housed by the end of September. All silage ground is rented and three cuts are harvested by contractor. In fact machinery on the farm is kept to a minimum. The first cut is normally taken mid-May (as well as some bales early in the season) with another cut taken specifically for dry cows.
Reseeding is carried out with min-till and the family have stitched in clover and plantains into some of the pastures with good results achieved so far.
Throughout the day visitors were able to question the host farmers with full and frank discussions on many aspects of management practice and overall farm policy.
The meeting concluded with a vote of thanks from UGS President Elect John Egerton followed by a BBQ lunch which was enjoyed by all those present.
Thanks to the Buchanan family for hosting this Spring Meeting for the Ulster Grassland Society.